FastCar Newsdesk for Richmond International Raceway, week of 5/1/09

The excitement of Brad Keselowski’s breakthrough Sprint Cup Series victory in James Finch’s No. 09 Chevy in last Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway has been tapered by the aftermath and injuries caused Carl Edwards’ nasty flip. Calls by drivers, journalists, fans, and others in the sport to redesign the racecars, the racetrack, the catch fence, the restrictor plates, the yellow-line rules and the grandstands at Talladega have permeated airwaves, blogs, and articles throughout the week, prompting a response from NASCAR officials.

Officials responded to members of the media in a teleconference earlier this week, who asked questions that covered a whole array of thoughts surrounding the safety of restrictor plate racing. In brief, NASCAR officials say that the safety components put in place up until now, such as the catch fence design and the COT aerodynamics, did what they were supposed to do, though they and Talladega officials are looking into possible heightening the fence and tweaking its design. They also say that they are not looking into decreasing the banking, thus the speeds at Talladega.

Most drivers were in accord after the race. As has been said many times before, many despise the prospect of their good runs being ruined by the inevitable big wreck and think that the racing is decided by random chance much more than by skill or car superiority. After seeing Carl Edwards’ No. 99 car land on his own No. 39 Chevy, 3rd place finisher Ryan Newman had this to offer about Talladega:

“Talladega is short for ‘We are gonna wreck, we just don’t know when’.”

Newman, who has seen his own tumbles in wrecks at restrictor plate tracks, says that NASCAR should look into the aerodynamic design of the COT, since Edwards’ car took such a strange flight. 2nd place finisher Dale Earnhardt Jr. told reporters after the race that NASCAR should open up the restrictor plates, so the race cars can get away from each other and decrease the impact of big wrecks.

Of the eight fans that the Edwards crash and debris spray injured, the last has left from UAB hospital. Blake Bobbitt, a 17 year-old female just weeks from high school graduation, had metal plates inserted in her jaw and reconstructive surgery before her release. Her mouth will remain wired shut for six weeks. According to the teen’s father, Sunday’s race at Talladega was her first.

Marquee NASCAR journalist David Poole dies of heart attack Tuesday

NASCAR columnist David Poole died suddenly of a heart attack Tuesday morning at his home. The 50 year-old covered NASCAR for the Charlotte Observer and their racing website ThatsRacin.com since 1997 and was the host of Sirius Satellite Radio’s Morning Drive NASCAR show.

Poole, also an author and former television personality with Speed Channel, was known for having a great reputation with drivers and was never shy to be up front and asking questions in press conferences. Poole’s columns, though controversial, were highly popular and gained him respect with both fans and those inside NASCAR.

The four-time National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year’s death has prompted public statements by NASCAR CEO Brian France, the presidents of Talladega and Daytona, and several NASCAR drivers. Among the teams carrying decals in honor of Poole this week are Stewart Hass Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, Richard Childress Racing, and Penske Racing. France Jr. also had Poole on the panel released this week to determine the first class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Chrysler to remain in NASCAR, despite bankruptcy

Chrysler is in the process of filing for bankruptcy this week, after seeing revenue tumble over the last year. Despite the bad news, company officials say that the company will still survive and that NASCAR marketing remains a vital part of that survival. Chrysler soon will sign a partnership with Italian automaker Fiat and will be run by a government-appointed board, as part of the automaker’s restructuring plan. Currently, only Penske Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports run Dodges full-time in the Sprint Cup Series.

Bliss in No. 09 for Keselowski among entry list news

Despite winning last week in the No. 09 Chevy, Brad Keselowski’s focus will be solely on his NASCAR Nationwide Series No. 88 Chevy for JR Motorsports this week. In his place will sit Mike Bliss, who splits time in James Finch’s car with Sterling Marlin and Keselowski. The entry is assured a spot in the race if qualifying is rained out, since the team won last week’s Talladega race.

Gunselman Motorsports with driver Todd Bodine in the No. 64 Toyota returns this week at Richmond, after skipping the Talladega race. Dave Blaney returns to the cockpit of the No. 66 Prism Motorsports Toyota, after Michael McDowell replaced him and missed the race last week. Tony Raines’ No. 37 Front Row Motorsports Dodge was added late to the entry list; the team has scaled back from a full-time schedule. Trevor Boys and the No. 06 team also are attempting the race. Other full-time teams that have been attempting the schedule and are outside the Top 35 return this week at Richmond.

Last week’s Nationwide Series winner will also be skipping that race. Georgia’s David Ragan won last Saturday’s Aaron’s 312 in Talladega, scoring his first ever win in any of the top three NASCAR series. Ragan sits out his first race in the series in over two years, letting driver Erik Darnell take the reigns of the No. 6 Ford. Ragan sits third in points and is slated to miss several more races in favor of Darnell, whose Roush Fenway Truck Series team shut down, due to a lack of funding, after last season. He currently sits 3rd in points, but is, of course, now not running for the championship.

In other entry list news in the Nationwide Series, Casey Atwood returns to the No. 05 car, after sitting out last week. Mark Green gets back behind the wheel of the JD Motorsports No. 0 Chevy, after yielding in favor of restrictor plate ringer Mike Wallace last weekend. Marc Davis attempts his 2nd race of the year in his self-owned No. 36 Toyota and Peyton Sellers also tries for his 2nd time of the year. Stanton Barrett and the No. 41 Rick Ware Racing team have withdrawn from the event and Kevin Hamlin is now a last-minute replacement for Donnie Neuenberger in the Jimmy Means-owned No. 52.

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is not racing this weekend and returns at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

Ragan finally gets one and other Georgia drivers run well in ‘Dega

As mentioned before, Talladega Superspeedway leant a benchmark moment to the career of David Ragan last weekend. Ragan made a last lap pass of Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. to take the victory. He did so with help from Joey Logano, whom Ragan raced in Legends cars as a child in Georgia. The other Georgian in that race, John Wes Townley, stayed out of trouble and finished 18th.

Ragan ran 12th in the Cup race at Talladega, improving his points position to 26th and scoring his best run since the Daytona 500. Reed Sorenson scored his 2nd straight top 15 finish with an 11th place run, rebounding from cutting a tire and hitting the wall after the midway point in the race.

Mike Skinner won the Camping World Truck Series race on Monday at Kansas Speedway, scoring the first win for Randy Moss Motorsports in the No. 5. Georgian Shane Sieg finished 19th in the No. 15 Toyota.

In his Camping World East Series debut last Saturday at Tri County Speedway in North Carolina, Kyle Fowler kept his Ken Schrader racing entry on the lead lap and finished 13th.

Listen to Doug host Captain Herb Emory’s Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln Mercury 120 from 2-3 p.m. this Saturday on News/Talk 750 WSB in Atlanta and online at wsbradio.com. Hear Doug on GRN’s coverage of the Georgia Asphalt Series live from Lanier Speedway Saturday night at racefanradio.com beginning at 7 p.m.